The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Change is the only constant in our lives.  If we stand firm without seeking to improve ourselves or increase our contributions we may find ourselves “on the outside looking in” rather than realizing (and moving beyond) our wildest imaginings.  While many seek the stability and purpose of work, the sense of security offered by a solid job can become a prison from which one cannot escape if it fails to provide the opportunity to grow and advance.  The same might be said of our personal relationships – comfort is good but shared adventures and jointly discovering new horizons can make an otherwise cool situation sizzle.

People seeking to accomplish no more than has been assigned or is expected tend to be seen as dependable, reliable and consistent BUT their lives (jobs and relationships) can become stagnant.  If one truly hopes to taste success or fulfillment – recognition or growth – he/she must look back but briefly to understand where they have been while focusing on (or building) a new path forward towards yet to be discovered possibilities.  Individuals content with the present rather than seeking the future – suppressing their desire to move from “where they are” towards “where they could be”) often find themselves doing what has already been done and settling for the comfort found in achieving what has been previously accomplished (rather than becoming what they could potentially be). 

There are several pitfalls that limit your potential – that minimize your ability to bring your dreams to reality.  Recognizing these traps can help keep you from a self-imposed prison that will become your reality should you accept the hopes and dreams that someone else might have for you rather than for your own.  To ensure success and supercharge relationships, recognize (and actively avoid) these precursors to failure:
  • NEVER be content with the skills or knowledge you possess.  In order to thrive in life we must continually upgrade (and apply) your (new) abilities – refusing to accept “what is” as an end but rather seeing today as a means to “what will be” in the future.  What was once necessary to maintain a life-long job is no longer sufficient.  A secretary needs word processing proficiency (even if they were REALLY good with a typewriter).  Many production workers need to run automated machinery or understand statistical process controls.  An HR Professional must maintain his or her knowledge of legislation impacting the workforce to ensure compliance while helping to manage and maintain a highly qualified talent pool.  Individuals who “fail to know” typically fail to grow.
  • Do not confuse being efficient with being effective – or worse, keeping busy with being productive.  An e-mail may be efficient, but a conversation could more effectively resolve an issue without extended “replies and clarifications.”  Leaving a note as to where you are might be efficient but calling someone to give a personal explanation can be much more effective.  A person may appear busy but unless a concrete objective is accomplished – a sense of urgency linked to the completion of a stated Organizational Goal – the activity is no more meaningful than dust in the wind.  Effective people make sure that every investment of time and/or energy has a direct and measurable impact on their organization’s ability to conduct business.
  • NEVER believe you are irreplaceable.  In the workplace, when an employee feels that nobody could 
    EVER do what he or she does, that employee has probably limited what he or she could ever accomplish.   Individuals who believe they are “critical” to the Organization within their limited and specialized role do not typically grow – they simply reinforce stagnation and the acceptance of mediocrity.  If nobody else can do the things you do, you will never be able to seek new horizons or accept new responsibilities.  It is difficult to be important to anyone else when one becomes self-absorbed and self-important themselves.  When one truly believes and acknowledges another to be irreplaceable they typically find that “special” person will reciprocally provide more recognition and encouragement than could ever have been generated internally.
  • Do not fool yourself into thinking you know all the answers.   One must always be open to new ideas,
    techniques, and ways of doing things in order to grow.  Innovation and resolution-based problem solving comes from applying new ways of doing things to accomplish existing tasks.  One can truly contribute ONLY after identifying the limitations of current systems, policies procedures or relationships, asking questions as to how they might be improved then moving forward towards the adoption of more effective processes that result in better solutions.  People who know all the questions are often more valuable than those who feel they know all the answers.  Leading another to develop alternative solutions allows them to share in the success of actions taken.
  • NEVER forget (or refuse) to give credit to others for a job well done (while being carefully hesitant about assigning blame should a good idea fail).  People recognize, respect and acknowledge the ideas and actions of those who are unafraid to make things happen.  Those sharing (or assuming) the blame if things go wrong will win loyalty, be recognized as leaders, and become vital contributors to the activities around them.  When one assigns the responsibility AND holds an individual accountable for results, providing the opportunity to rectify mistakes should they occur, leadership has been clearly established.  How much (more) could we accomplish in life IF ONLY we did not care who received the credit?
  • We do not establish confidence and credibility by always insisting that we be in the lead or assuming that we are above reproach.  A delicate blend of “me first” and “I am right behind you” is needed to gain another’s confidence.  A person is measured more by the actions they take than by words they speak.  To gain (and retain) credibility we must allow others to participate as equal partners – to help develop the path that will be followed (with you “watching and supporting their back” to minimize the consequences of a fall).  A good leader (at work or within a relationship) cannot always be first and foremost while making sure he or she has the final “say.”  Rather, he (or she) must “pull” the team along while allowing a good amount of “freedom to wander” along the way instead of pushing it into avoidable trouble (or into a ‘funnel” leaving no room to learn from failure) from behind.

As you enjoy the warm, lazy days of summer, take time to plan where you are going, think about how you are going to get there, and maintain perspective along the way.  Learning from the failure of others is often easier but acknowledging and moving forward using our own failings as the experience behind growth is somehow much more effective (as long as we recognize that falling is not failing but that failing to get up once we have fallen often leads to our stagnation).  Make this summer the time you identify and nurture “the possible” rather than accepting and hiding within “the probable” as you fully embrace success by avoiding the pitfalls that might hinder your progress.